Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Marriage by application

 Marriage by application


FRANCISCUS (Franky) Antao was a civil servant in the British Colonial Civil Service. He was actually one of the hundreds of clerks in the Secretariat. Many, many years ago he had been seconded to the Permanent Secretary for Recruitment, Local and Overseas, Johnson William. Franky was William’s clerk with a key responsibility. JW, as he liked to be called, was a typical British foreign colonial from the old country. Mos
t of all he did not like to spend too much time in the office.

He was skilled enough to gather around him a team of mainly Goans and other Indians who made sure that the department was run as a pretty tight ship. He on the other hand was happiest at the Muthaiga Golf Club, on the course, naturally or lunching in one of the finest dining rooms in the country. The MGC also had a much-loved bar. With that came a reputation that no decent Catholic would have found sinful. However, meeting the sex-hunger needs of the wives of farmers and civil servants who were forced to endure life in the bush meant that the colonial government provided regular short-term local leave which the women loved spending in Nairobi and GMC was a haven for finding willing partners.  These short leave sexual encounters often took a regular turn and again there were regular incidents of angry husbands wanting their pounding flesh.

Nonetheless, the British stiff upper lip ensured that any newspaper-worthy sensational stories were spiked in-house. Thus, the ugly side of the MGC was usually swept aside and dressed by a kind of virtual whitewash.

To this day, the MGC remains the pillar of the upper echelons of society. I don’t think you will find any sexual shenanigans today. The sex-hungry farmer’s wives are now just a memory of the colonial past.

JW had a full complement of civil servants, from undersecretaries down to the humble junior clerk. Our Franky told everyone that he was the official “recruitment clerk” to JW and the department as a whole. He always forgot to mention that his “recruiting duties” were only one of his many chores as a clerk. He also forgot to mention that “recruiting duties” were restricted to sending “recruitment analysis forms” (a job application really) to applicants. Although his task was minuscule in this process, he did take the trouble to find out the mysteries embedded in the form and after a while, he was competent enough to understand who were the likely successful candidate/s for the advertised job. In the senior job section, the approvals team usually reserved the vacancies for English men and women from Briton. The other vacancies were filled by people marked as “others” of any colour except black …. except in the rare extreme.

As a result of his newly gained knowledge as “the” recruitment clerk, he became endeared to many Goans whom he helped with filling in the recruitment form to the best of his newfound knowledge which was eventually successful more often than not. Thus, Franky Antao gained for himself the respect and admiration of the Goan community. In the eyes of the many members of the Nairobi Goan Institute he was known for his astuteness and analytical skills but not for his skills at the card table.

At home too, his doting wife Mariela came to rely on his analytical skills and sought his help in solving many household problems and future plans. Mariela trusted her teacher-husband implicitly and enjoyed that her husband was such a clever chap.

Hence one Saturday night, after the children had gone to bed, she sat knitting while her husband enjoyed a cigarette and a Scotch while reading something of assumed high importance.

“Franky,” she said. “Can we talk, please?”

“Yes, sure. What about?”

“One of these days, Gildo’s parents will come to ask for Juanita’s hand in marriage with their son. How should we go about it? After they ask, we should have them around, dinner and drinks before we sit down to discuss everything,” she said somewhat sheepishly.

“Yes, yes, of course. I have been giving it some thought and I have come up with a plan. When he comes to ask a name a date when his parents could come to our house, I will have a chat with him. I have adapted my work recruitment form for him to fill out. That should give us all the answers we need. For example, we will know if likes and dislikes generally. His earning potential, savings, health, and everything else his potential in-laws would like to know before giving their consent and engaging the parents in setting a date,” he said with triumph.

Mariela’s eye’s lit up too. She knew her Franky would have a simple solution.

All spick and span, just like in the British Civil Service.

Well, the day came when Gildo followed Juanita into the Antao home. Waiting with open arms to greet them were Mariela and Franky (who was wafting a cigarette high above everyone and smiling to high heaven). When all had settled with a drink, Gildo asked the question. You know the one when can his parent come to visit the Antaos about finalising Gildo’s and Juanita’s wedding plans.

Frankie put his arm around Gildo and took him into the kitchen. “Gildo,” he said, “you know I am a bit of analytical nut. I have created a form that I ask you to kindly fill out. The answers you provide will give us a very clear idea about what we do not know about you. It’s nothing too serious, please oblige me.”

As Gildo picked up the form, Franky said: “I hope you will find it useful too.”

Beaming with delight, there were hugs all around before the “good nights”.

A couple of weeks later, Juanita asked her dad to come home early from his daily card table at the GI. “Gildo is coming back with the form you ask him to fill.”

When Gildo did arrive that night, he was fuming like a raging bull.

With tear-filled reddened eyes, he said: “My father told me to tell you that you should have a good idea what to do with your marriage proposal form. He asked me to inform you that no son of his would apply for the job of being married to anyone.” With that, he walked out and slammed the door as he left. That was the last they saw of Gildo. Much unhappiness, tears and sadness followed in the Antao household. Franky was a lesser man; his feathers as an analyst had been well and truly plucked. He never set foot in the GI again. His fall from grace was too much to bear.

You know what they say about little knowledge.

Juanita eventually married, a popular motor mechanic call Manuel. I suspect they lived happily ever after. Frankie kept his distance and relied on Mariela to do the needful. She had his full support.

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Nazareth returns to Uganda

 

John Nazareth: return to Uganda, 20 years after the nightmare


JULY 1993. MEMORIES OF A REUNION WITH COUNTRY AND FRIENDS


By John Nazareth


15 July 1993: The day is here at last. I cannot believe I am going back to the land of my birth after 20 years. It was August 1973 when I left to do postgraduate study in London, having taken a leave-of-absence from the Ministry of Finance and Planning, never realizing that it would be so long before I'd be back. For my wife Cynthia, it has been even longer; she left in July 1972 on a holiday (she was just my girlfriend then) and was not allowed to return. We are anxiously looking forward to not only seeing familiar places, but to meeting many friends whom we just did not expect to not see for so long. We bring along our son Paul (17) and daughter Rachel (13) to show them their Ugandan heritage.

Strangely, even though I could not come to Uganda all these years, Uganda came to me. Through a chance meeting (thanks to my brother Peter) with Claude Dusaide, who was doing his Ph D at York University, I came to know the whole Black Ugandan community in Toronto - around 100 families. (I consider myself a Ugandan, African [and Goan, Canadian, Indian], so how else to explain.) There were several St. Mary’s College (SMC) Kisubi Old-boys, my classmate Ben Ssenyonjo, Louis Kizito, Joe Tomusange - then High Commissioner to Canada; colleagues from Makerere: John-Draks Ssemakula (ex- Namilyango Toast), and Bakulu-Mpagi Wamala; Mrs John Kakonge and family, and many more. (Bakulu was a dear friend and I miss him terribly. Uganda lost a great, great son.)

17 July 1993: We land in Nairobi to spend a few days with Edgar and Tess Desa. Tess was Cynthia's old classmate in Gayaza High School (1967-68) and Edgar's brother Vince had studied with me in Makerere (Med School 1970). We visit Joe Tomusange (SMC SC 1966) who is now Uganda's High Commissioner in Kenya. (We know Joe from his days as High Commissioner to Canada.) Joe is a great High Commissioner - just what we need to make Uganda and Kenya friends again. He is dignified, yet humble - he makes time for everybody, big and small. My children have great regard for him. While I am waiting to meet Joe, I look through his visitors' book to see if I know anyone. Lo and behold, there was Stephen Nabeta. Stephen and I were classmates in primary school 1958-60; we were both in the Scouts together at that time; I scribble down his telephone number.

21 July 1993: At the airport in Nairobi, finally waiting for my flight to Entebbe. Had a minor accident and while I am resolving the problem, a co-traveler inquires with Cynthia whether all is okay. I come back and discover that he is a former classmate of mine from St Mary's - Joseph Muchope (SC 1964). A few minutes later while we are talking, we are joined by Ezra Bunyenyezi, an old friend. Ezra is a goldmine, he has the phone numbers of a whole host of friends I am looking for. I asked about Chris Ssendegeya Kibirige (SMC SC 1964), he says he knows a Prof Kibirige in Makerere Math Dept; can't be Chris. (But more later.) Yet another few minutes later and Chris Kassami walks by; Chris and I joined the Ministry of Finance and Planning around the same time. He looks like he is in his twenties, so young that it takes me some time to recognise him. (He is now the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry.) Hey, Uganda, can't you wait till I arrive, do you have to send out a welcoming party to Nairobi?

Finally arrive at Entebbe. Leave the plane and kiss the ground. Uganda, I am back.

Arthur De Mello, an old friend who wouldn't let anyone make him leave Uganda, is there to collect us. He is looking good.

We drive to Kampala. The scenery is great; Boy is it good to be back. Hmm, houses in the countryside aren't built of mud anymore, they are using mortar and bricks. Notice a lot of roadside vendors selling fruit on the way. Food is still plentiful; this place could be the breadbasket of Africa. Finally entering Kampala. The place has expanded - certainly more than 7 hills now. We settle in at Fairview Hotel, which is close to the Golf Course, and close to Arthur's place.

22 July 1993: We rent a car and drive around. The family keeps reminding me to "keep left". We go to the Uganda Development Corporation (UDC) where Cynthia used to work. Cynthia meets the same old office receptionist who brings tears to her eyes. We inquire about Mrs Picho Ali, a dear friend; (she named her son John after me), but no news.

Visit Christ the King Church, and are amazed to find out how much people pray. Lunch-time rosary too!

Drop into parliament to search for old friends; the session has just ended. While there, someone says - " Hey! I know you, you're from Kisubi." It's Omara-Atubo. It's good to see him. I brought greetings for him from Louis Kizito in Toronto. He says the next session will be next Tuesday, and I promise to be back to search for other friends. I realize that Omara is in a bit of trouble, having read a lot from Uganda newsletters at the High Commission in Canada, and pray for his deliverance; we need more Kisubi guys in Parliament.

Pop in to see Mulago Hospital. Proceed to the Cancer Research Institute, which I had heard was headed by Dr Edward Katongole-Mbide (SMC HC 1966), an old classmate; would I be lucky and find him there? I am in luck, he is in. Even greater luck, my son is doing all the Video recording and captures Edward and me embracing to make up for 20 years. It is great to see him, and he is in good shape. It is good to know that not all the good people fled the country. We record a message for Dr Bernard Fernandes, Edward's colleague from Makerere who is now an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto and a Clinical Pathologist at Mount Sinai Hospital.

We drive around Kampala, show the kids where their mother used to have a flat when she was working for the UDC, and where I used to court her. Kampala is beautiful in spite of the evidence of the war, and the hard times. The roads are in great shape (better than Nairobi's) and the city is pretty clean.

In the evening we meet Arthur's family for dinner.

23 July 1993 (Friday): Start off early and drive towards Entebbe. But first, a stop at St Mary's College Kisubi. The place looks in great shape. The children cannot believe that they are finally seeing the place that I had related so many stories about. My wife had been here on school dances, but not too often as she says the Gayaza Headmistress preferred Budo; she used to hide Kisubi's invitations. (Incidentally, she recalled that while at Gayaza, she met Bakulu Wamala who was at Budo at the time. Small world.) I showed them the classroom where, during night study in 1962 Ssendegeya (not Kibirige) had held a frog to a window, scaring Kkolokolo (S 2B) who thought it was a snake and proceeded to run out screaming, dragging first his whole class, and then the whole school, some jumping through windows slashing themselves. (We had talked about this often.)

While waiting to meet the Headmaster, we walk into the next room, and there are our old Class pictures. The family sees me, their uncle Cyril Fernandes (SC 1964; he married my sister), Muchope - who we had just met, and others. Finally, we meet Br Tinkasimire. I find out later that he is briefing his staff as his father has just died and he has to leave. We have a long chat about many topics. I am amazed to see so many women teachers. Before leaving we roam around, and as I peek in the Biology Lab, there is Sebastian Nsubuga! Sebastian (the Lab Assistant) who started working there in 1947! He is pleased to see us and shows the children around; they are impressed with his work. Walked through the school Church where I had served as Sacristan together with Tony Carvalho and Gaston Ndyajunwoha.

On to Entebbe. This is really home. I had lived here longer than anywhere else (although Toronto is catching up). We see all our Goan friends' houses and take videos and pictures to show those in Toronto. We see the house where my two brothers, sister and I were born. I cannot control my excitement, and it rubs off onto my family. Entebbe is beautiful, but most of the roads are in bad shape; some of Uganda's agonies can be seen in these roads, twisted, tortured, pot-holed. (But the people have survived with surprisingly good spirits. The characteristic friendliness I knew was still there. For a country that has suffered so much, one does not see a hint of meanness in the spirit or the evidence in their psyche of the violence that had become endemic. They seem to have come to a good balance between the old culture and the modern world. Perhaps we have all suffered so much that we are determined to make the best of things from now on.) The Botanical Gardens must have been rehabilitated recently - it looks just wonderful.

Then on to Bugonga Parish. On the way, we passed Mugwanya Road School, where I had spent three years. I'll never forget those days. What about the time Kadu Kironde was captaining our cricket side against the European School and he declared after we had scored 30 runs (because he was out). Hey Kadu, I know you are out there and I hear good things about you, but we did do some crazy things then, and you were quite a rascal (I wish I could tell your children of our escapades).

(Talking about children, when I first met John Kakonge's daughters, one (Victoria?) asked me what politics was like in the 1960s. I found myself explaining things about her father to her! I realized then that I could well be more Ugandan than she was as she had spent most of her years outside the country because of the troubles. But, I digress.)

Ah Bugonga (officially known as Sacred Heart Church). The church looks good; they are renovating the inside, but it is substantially the same. To think how many years I served Mass at altar server here. We meet the Parish Priest and inquire about Fr Kyeyune, who had been our Parish Priest in 1972 (we lost touch with him in 1989). Luckily the priest is Fr Kyeyune's nephew and so we find out that he is in Rubaga. We present some priest vestments that we had got from our Parish in Mississauga.

From there to Lake Victoria Hotel where we have lunch; it is in better shape than when I left in 1973. Here I buy a book "Uganda Since Independence" by Phares Mutibwa - a great book, that taught me a number of things I was too young to know about then. (On my return to Toronto I happened to mention Mutibwa to my brother Peter Nazareth, who is a Professor of English at the University of Iowa, he said "Hey! He used to be my classmate in Makerere; I always wondered where he got to.")

Then the downside, I go to visit my father's gravesite at the old Catholic Cemetery off the airport road near the old Printing Department. The place is so overrun with vegetation that it is impossible to see the cemetery. I go on sheer memory and brave snakes to look; my family cannot follow me. Then after twenty minutes, I find a few graves, including Helen De Mello’s, and Trevor D’Souza’s dad. So this is the correct site. But my father's was in such bad shape that I could not find the exact one. Ah well, I guess most people were so busy struggling to stay alive in the hard years that caring for the dead had to take a low priority. I will do something when I get back to Toronto.

24 July 1993 (Sat): I now realize that it was a mistake going to Entebbe yesterday. I should have tried to contact people first. Now I will have to wait two days for Monday. Carry on touring places. On to Jinja, where my wife was raised.

My wife actually lived in Lukumbi, 10 miles before Jinja, as her father was the manager of a coffee plantation. We drive towards her old house off the main road. The murram road is in terrible, terrible shape, meant for 4-wheel drives, and here I am with my little car. In some spots, everyone has to get out so that I can drive. Only God helps me manage. Suddenly, someone greets us; he is the current assistant manager. He knew that if a car was coming in, it could only be from the Fernandes’ who once lived there. He gives my wife a tour. But most of the coffee plantation is gone, cut down to grow maize (to survive the tough times). Cynthia's house is not there anymore; its bricks were taken away to build other things; times were tough. The assistant manager urges Cynthia to come back and help rebuild the place. How can we? Uganda keeps tugging at our hearts.

In Jinja, the Falls look beautiful, we see Cynthia's old school, scenery, etc.. The town is clean and seems to have been untouched by the war. We stop at Cynthia's sister's former house. As we are watching, a man walks up and asks us whether it was our house, and we explain. He then says "Why doesn't your sister come and reclaim it?" We say, "Why don't you tell her, we will videotape you." "But why don't you tell her", he replies. "It's your country", says Cynthia. "But it is your country too", he ends. And this from a stranger. Is it any wonder that we love this country so much? Our children are absorbing all this.

25 July 1993 (Sun): Attend Mass at Christ the King Church. The place is overflowing into the parking lot. The singing is beautiful. On to Rubaga Cathedral. The Cathedral is more beautiful than ever. All the services are over, but there is a lone organist playing pop songs in the Cathedral. (The songs are not too extravagant for a church and sound good.) Trying to find Fr Kyeyune. When we are about to give up, he walks out. A big embrace. We talk about the old days. He takes us to the shrine of the late Cardinal Nsubuga, who we had befriended in Toronto when he came there several years ago.

Later: we are videotaping Kampala from near the top of Kololo Hill. We cannot get to the top because the army has taken it over. As we are taping a soldier saunters over. (We then remember Joe Tomusange's warning: "John, take care when you are taking pictures".) He says: "Why don't you come with me to the top of our house; the view is better." We politely decline, he insists. The view is better. Boy, has the army changed.

26 July 1993 (Mon): Visit Makerere University. Show the children all the halls, and the Math Department, where I studied, New Hall (now Nkrumah) where I lived, the Box (Mary Stuart Hall).. . Go to the English Department to give them a few copies of my brother Peter's novel: "The General Is Up". Meet Prof Arthur Gakwanda, who informs me that they are teaching both of Peter's novels (the other being "In a Brown Mantle"). He insists that I make a formal presentation of the book. (Peter is widely known as a Ugandan writer.) My son Paul takes a picture of the presentation.

I then go to see Prof Joe Carasco (Biochemistry), who was my colleague in Makerere (Mitchell Hall 1971). With his big bushy beard, he is a well-known figure around town. Everyone knows him as "The Professor". Joe is a Namilyango OB, also of the Namilyango-toast days. While having lunch with Joe I mention Kibirige; he knows him and will take me there. While walking I notice someone familiar, a SMC O-B, "This is Kibirige" he says. It turns out that he is Chris's brother and Chris is in Nairobi working for UNESCO. Eureka!

Later: We visit Gayaza High School. Cynthia is disappointed that none of her old teachers are around, but a teacher who was a young student when Cynthia was there takes us around. We see a student on the list named Nabeta. Cynthia remembers that Christina Nabeta (Stephen's sister) was Headgirl when she was there. Small world.

Back in Kampala: I drop in to see an old schoolmate Edward Ssekandi[1] (SMC HSC 1963?), who is practicing law. From him, I find out exactly where J.B. Walusimbi[2] (my SMC classmate) has his Engineering practice, and go to see him too. (I had heard about his whereabouts from a common classmate, Anthony Carvalho, who is in Guinea working on a USAID engineering project.) I came to find friends, but I can't believe I found so many of them. 

Word is beginning to get around that I am in town, but I will be leaving in a few days! I get the impression that if we were to stay one more week there would be wild parties.

27 July 1993 (Tues): Not a great day. I miss practically everybody. Go to the Bank of Uganda to see Obura; he isn't in. I said I would try and get back but never get the chance. Go to see Celestine Opobo (who used to work with me in Min of Planning) at Foreign Affairs, no luck (turns out I went to the wrong ministry). Try to see Stephen Nabeta, his secretary says he is tied up in a meeting. Try to find James Kahoza (a colleague of my brother's), find out that he is now Auditor General, but have no luck finding his office.

Return to Parliament didn't see Omara or anyone else I knew: Kawanga (SMC SC 1964), Dr Ojok-Mulozi (found out he is not an MP anymore). Almost got into trouble moving around trying to get a better view. The security officer smiled when I explained.

Cynthia is luckier. We are walking around the National Theatre when Cynthia bumps into an old classmate from Gayaza, Stella Kahem. Screams, embraces long talks. She will come with friends tomorrow.

Our children are by now baffled. How is it we are so comfortable here with everyone, people are so happy to see us and give us big embraces, and yet we were "kicked out". I explain, but don't really need to; their eyes see everything.

Go to the Martyrs' Shrine, Namugongo (see one of the doors donated by J.B. Walusimbi) and pray there. Buy several books on the martyrs to take back for friends. I remember many friends who had died, including Godfrey Kiggala (SMC SC 1964).

That evening I call I.K. Kabanda and go immediately to pay a short visit. IK used to be my Permanent Secretary in Finance & Planning 1971/2 and was very good to me. (His wife is a Gayaza OG and so gives Cynthia special attention.) I will never forget his graciousness during the 1972 Expulsion and the aftermath.

28 July 1993 (Wed): Arthur takes us fishing in Entebbe with his beautiful boat. The fishing is good - we catch four Nile Perch in a few hours. It is hard to believe you can catch Nile Perch in Lake Victoria now. The scenery is breathtaking, and the children realize why we called Uganda, our Paradise Lost. (It is good to see paradise reawakening.)

Back in Kampala, we go to see Julie Okoth (nee Fernandes) who used to share a flat with Cynthia in 1971. It is good to see her. There find out the bad news that her brother Alex's wife had passed away a few years ago.

That evening we invite a few people to our hotel for a drink as Afrigo Band is playing. Cynthia's two classmates Stella and another are there. Tried to get Walusimbi yesterday, but we keep crossing each other. Left a message for Ezra, no luck. Couldn't contact Katongole... The Professor, Arthur and wife Jean, Joe Fernandes make it. Listening to Afrigo was great; (we bought several of their tapes yesterday). Paul and Rachel can't believe their eyes when Afrigo did their traditional Muganda number with dance. (Watch those bottoms shake at the speed of light!)

29 July 1993 (Thur): Wake up early and head for the airport. We leave for Nairobi. It has been too short, but thanks to Jesus, we made it. Arrive in Nairobi and head for four days in Mombasa by train. Meet a number of Goan friends. Also, meet Ashley Pinto (SMC 1962) who is doing well for himself. We meet after 31 years!

4 August 1993: Back in Nairobi with Edgar and Tess. Tried day and evening to get Chris Kibirige. Finally get him. Arrange to meet the next day. That evening we have a drink with Joe Tomusange; he is keen to see all the videos we had. We took 8 hours of them, but have time for about 2 hours.

5 August 1993: Finally, finally I meet Chris. Chris and I (besides being classmates in SMC) used to be good friends in 1972/73. I reflect: how we all scattered without exchanging addresses I will never understand. Perhaps we thought we would always have each other around. But on this trip I try to make up for it, and now, here is Chris. We can meet for only an hour or so as Chris is working and I am leaving for Toronto the same day, but this time we will keep in touch. He reminds me that I taught him how to drive in Kampala.

Later I go to see Prof Tony Rodrigues (SMC HSC 1963 - Prefect of Kakoza 1963 too), the one with the sweet voice and the accordion). He is Head of the Computer Department at the University of Nairobi. I find out that Chris and he know each other professionally through UNESCO programs at the U of N. We remember old times.

9:00pm: We finally leave for the airport to head for another home: Toronto. We are sad, but we are also happy. We did everything we wanted to. I wish I had met more people (where is J.B. Kifa?), but we have made contact. God bless Uganda and all its people.

On the way back I wonder about our homes: Goa, Uganda, Toronto; we feel a sense of belonging in all. Goa: our father, Uganda: our mother, Toronto: our adopted parents. We go back with renewed vigour to help Uganda. Ben Ssenyonjo, his wife Dr Joyce Nsubuga, and I had founded an association: "Friends of Uganda", through which we had sent 12,000 education books to Uganda in 1991/92 with Joe Tomusange's help for transportation. We have to keep on.

If you are wondering what I did since leaving Uganda in 1973 (besides getting married and have two great children) I studied at the London School of Economics (Dip Stats), University of Toronto (M.Sc. Stats) and York University (MBA). I am now a Reliability Project Engineer with Litton Systems, an electronics company. If you have flown on Boeing 727s, 737s, 747s, you were probably using our Inertial Guidance Systems.

John Nazareth
Toronto, 1994


Postscript 2018: In 1995 I joined Bombardier Aerospace (which had acquired De Havilland in 1992)and worked as Chief of Maintenance Data Analysis within the Reliability Engineering Department. My group collected data and publishes statistics to help our aircraft maintain good reliability and safety. I retired in September 2015.


[1] Postscript 2018: Ssekandi later joined politics and has been Vice-President of Uganda since 2011.

[2] Postscript 2018: Walusimbi served as Katikkiro of Buganda 2008-2013. Katikkiro is a position similar to a Provincial Premier.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Just Yarns, believe it or not

                                                              Yarns!

Believe it or not



This, I hope is the start of many similar stories I have gathered from friends and will include some of my own experiences. -- 

 

Marcelin Gonsalves arrived in Bombay (later to be known as Mumbai) from Nairobi as part of an official Kenya delegation heading to Japan. This is his story: We had a couple of days at a pretty upmarket hotel before heading off our safari eastwards. Being a seasoned traveller, I took my time getting out of bed from my morning siesta and even more time getting out of my shower. Suitably relaxed, I headed for the cocktail bar.

It was one of that easy kind of mornings, as the Goans say, “sussegade” (relaxed, laid back). Outside the hotel, I knew, was anything but sussegade. Bombay’s human, motor, handcarts, scooters, animals, and every other type was legion. I was always amazed at how easily human beings cut in and out of traffic. People had also got used to the eternal honking … a language only they understood and humans and traffic it seemed were at peace.

There was also a kind of peace at the cocktail bar. The barman, dressed in an impeccable white long robe kind of outfit, made even more stylish by a short starting red kind of a skinny miniature coat made famous originally by the waiters of Cairo and other parts of North Africa and late familiar with waiters and stewards in colonial Africa … colonial anywhere. He was chatting with a group of Europeans and I was rude enough to interrupt him: Ahem, ahem!

“Yes Sir? What can I get for you? And sir, I am sorry you had to interrupt our conversation. No hurry, I would have come to you as soon as I had finished.”

Well, I was a little dumbfound and I had learned from experience that folks in different countries to things differently, and I sort of mouthed an inaudible apology, given with a smile, a false I will confess.

For a moment or two we continued to exchange, I thought, cordial smiles and momentarily he said the magic words again: “What can I get you?”

“A large Johnny Walker Black Label, a double, in a tall glass with a side bottle of soda water and no ice,” I explained and with a broad, broad smile, he said, as if in victory: “In a moment sir.”

The “in a moment” turned out to be more than three cigarettes smoked old. My second attempt to get is attention was replied with the deepest apology: “Sorry, sorry sir, I will be with you in a moment.”

Three more cigarettes later, I was hammering the polished bar top (you could see your face in it) with my knuckles and the cigarette lighter also got a pretty good workout. The Europeans were throwing me dirty looks. How do I know, I know dirty looks when I see them.

A very contrite and saddening barman stood in on the other side of the bar, his hands seemingly joined in prayer. His voice was also prayerful. Having gathered himself at his most sorryest presentable self, he said: “I am sorry sir, very, very, very sorry sir. We are not in the habit of keeping our guests waiting but sir, I cannot give you soda with your JW. The boy I sent to get it has come back because our suppliers don’t have any. I can send me to another shop to get it …”

Before he finished the sentence, I cut in like a razor blade doing its thing on a thickened mustache and said: “Coke, will do.”

Suddenly he was Jumping Jack Flash. The vapors from both the Coke and JW were wafting their way up my nose. Just as that was happening, the Europeans wave the barman goodbye.

So, there he was, right in front of me. Glazed eyes somewhat teared up or were that his natural state, I wondered. Having given my inner spirits a filip with the first drink, I ventured for a second and it seemed to arrive faster than a rocket heading skywards. Actually, he had a second scotch already poured and resting on the top shelf of the bar which was not visible to me. I thought he must have pulled of a card trick of sorts.

“So, I said, where are you from?”

“Nepal, sir.”

“Long way from home.”

“Yes sir.”

“How is life for you in Bombay?

“Can’t complain, sir, what happens, happens, that is the life sir.”

“Yes, I guess it is the same everywhere.”

“No, no sir. What I mean is that if something is going to happen, it will happen. Take today for example. I woke up this morning and as I got out of bed, I gave the dear one a push and shake and I got a grunt of some sorts.

“Anyway, I went to the water and brushed my teeth and washed my face. It felt good. I went to light the fire and found only one matchstick in the box. Tried to wake my loved one but she seemed in a deep slumber from which heaven could not rouse her. Anyway, I took a chance on the one match and promptly broke it, the head fall to its death in a tiny puddle of water which I must have accidentally created. Never mind sir, cold water from the beautiful clay pot is just as satisfying.

“I collected my cloth back, my umbrella, my little hat and as I walked towards the bus stop, just outside my little home, I picked up my usual paper. The bus was, as usual, many minutes late but I had catered for that emergency. Suddenly, I thought this was going to be a great day. Well, it is not every day you get to sit on the seat at the back of the bus. We, the five of us, sat pretty jollily each of us, each minding his own business. It was not long before the bus was getting filled beyond capacity. That did not bother me because buses filled beyond capacity with people hanging out of them is just a very normal thing.

“What was not normal was the rather large woman wearing stiletto (by the way, Marc said they were sharp knife heels) who stood in front of me along with a lot of other people who were already pressing themselves against us, as if we were chappati dough and they were kneading us. My problem was even bigger. The large lady decided that she would place one of her feet, or rather one of her knife heels on my foot, her right on my left. I tried my hardest (he said something like “damnedness”) to get her attention. My “excuse me madams” in every language I could conjure up fell upon the deftest ears created by any god. Well, I survived for a minute or two and the pain became unbearable. I imagined being permanently joined to her at the foot. I nudged her several times, but she would not budge. Well, now I tell, in just a few moments, sir, I said a million prayers to all the gods I could think of and to my wife and my unborn children. Well then, the devil in me gave me the courage … My God, knows this to be true …gave me the courage to give her a pinprick of a pinch on the underside of her large bottom. No sooner I had “pinned”, she was flying to the other end of the bus, bringing down all the passengers in her wake screaming: “Rape, rape, he put his hands on my thing. He raped me.” It is not the way of Indian men to take any notice of the ravings of a madwoman but she was further driven to fury, genuine or otherwise when many of my fellow bus passengers burst into laughter. She turned around showered everyone, men, women and children, with expletives in any language that came to mind. “You, Mother Fuckers, rot in hell,” or words to that effect.

I, of course, knew nothing about what she was talking about. The bus driver came into the bus and tried to make some sense of the drama that played in technicolor before our eyes. Again, it is not common for a bus driver, or a male of any sort, to pay attention to the ravings of a madwoman.

In the first instance of its kind, the five of us who had once celebrated seating on that much desired back seat were escorted from the bus by the driver. When we asked him why he said one of must-have done something sexual to her. “Sitting down? We asked, how is that possible? “I don’t know whose hands did what. Anyway, if I am delayed I will lose my job so better catch another bus or taxi.” And with that, he got back into his bus and roared away. The large lady sat in “our” back seat and stuck her tongue at us in bravado of sorts. We five in turn could only shake our heads.

“That is pretty rough. You have had a tough start …” I said in sympathy… couple more Scotches later.

“Oh No! That is not all. I got to the hotel and on my way to our changing rooms, there was a very angry food and beverages manager scowling at me. “Get changed quickly and I will have to deduct your wages for being late. I hope that will teach you about being late. I tried to say something, but shouted so everyone could hear: “I don’t care what your reasons are if you can’t be here on time, there are millions of others who are just waiting for the chance.”

Well, thought that pretty harsh. “But sir, I got changed and for a moment admired myself in the mirror if only to bring a happy smile to my face which so has seen much sunshine in my life that day. Just as I put my foot out of the door, a waiter caring orange, pineapple, grapefruit juices gave me a juicy shower … and the manager was watching all this happening. I will not be getting any pay for two months. So there, sir, if things are going to happen, they are going to happen.”

I gave him a hefty tip … but I will never be sure if he was pulling my leg!

Life on the high seas

I have always wanted to travel but I grew up in Nairobi, 300 miles from the sea, never learned to swim, never rowed or sailed a boat nor had a fantasy to up anchor and roam the Seven Seas. You would think that even a blind landlubber would be able to pole a punt on the placid waters of the Cherwell in Oxford. Within a few minutes, I managed to create chaos as I zigzagged my merry way on a Sunday afternoon. The English have a reputation for keeping their cool but I confess that there were some very red-faced and apoplectic islanders on the Cherwell that day! 

As you are my friends, you may well forgive me for this first foray on water. But wait! There's more. Later that summer, four friends who had entered to compete in the Fours at the annual hallowed Bath Regatta found themselves without a cox and, in spite of my protestations, got me into the boat. Within seconds of the race starting strange and wondrous things happened on the R. Avon. For some inexplicable reason, my boat veered to the right causing all four boats on our right to swerve to avoid collisions. When I took corrective action, the boat swung to the left causing the three boats to our left to veer left. With all the other boats running foul of each other, we pursued a somewhat erratic course to the Finish line to find that we had been disqualified because we had broken some archaic rule about keeping in your lane. We decided to seek consolation in a nearby pub where a person came up to us and thanked us for the most entertaining time he had ever had at a Regatta. He insisted on buying us each a pint of Bath's finest! ale

That, sad to say, was the end of my promising debut as a competitive sailor. I must admit, however, that I have great admiration for skilled sailors who sail through weather foul and fair and reach exotic destinations. When I came across this account below of a nutcase named Brian Chapman who had never sailed before but decided he was going to leave his safe and secure pensionable job on terra firma and set sail into the blue beyond, I thought I would check out how long it was before he ended up in Davy Jones' locker! Shiver me timbers, the guy is still afloat has sailed 83,000 miles (the equivalent of circumnavigating the globe three times at the Equator!), got himself a shipmate (a Swedish blonde, no less!), fathered a child and finances his voyages with his YoTube revenues! 

I have some amazing friends who have done marvelous things at sea. I admire you folk and in another life would love to learn the ropes and join you. In the meantime, I hope that all of you enjoy this story of an intrepid couple who didn't let their lack of seacraft stop them from following their dream! Enjoy!

I have always wanted to travel but I grew up in Nairobi, 300 miles from the sea, never learned to swim, never rowed or sailed a boat nor had a fantasy to up anchor and roam the Seven Seas. You would think that even a blind landlubber would be able to pole a punt on the placid waters of the Cherwell in Oxford. Within a few minutes, I managed to create chaos as I zigzagged my merry way on a Sunday afternoon. The English have a reputation for keeping their cool but I confess that there were some very red-faced and apoplectic islanders on the Cherwell that day! 

As you are my friends, you may well forgive me for this first foray on water. But wait! There's more. Later that summer, four friends who had entered to compete in the Fours at the annual hallowed Bath Regatta found themselves without a cox and, in spite of my protestations, got me into the boat. Within seconds of the race starting strange and wondrous things happened on the R. Avon. For some inexplicable reason, my boat veered to the right causing all four boats on our right to swerve to avoid collisions. When I took corrective action, the boat swung to the left causing the three boats to our left to veer left. With all the other boats running foul of each other, we pursued a somewhat erratic course to the Finish line to find that we had been disqualified because we had broken some archaic rule about keeping in your lane. We decided to seek consolation in a nearby pub where a person came up to us and thanked us for the most entertaining time he had ever had at a Regatta. He insisted on buying us each a pint of Bath's finest! ale

That, sad to say, was the end of my promising debut as a competitive sailor. I must admit, however, that I have great admiration for skilled sailors who sail through weather foul and fair and reach exotic destinations. When I came across this account below of a nutcase named Brian Chapman who had never sailed before but decided he was going to leave his safe and secure pensionable job on terra firma and set sail into the blue beyond, I thought I would check out how long it was before he ended up in Davy Jones' locker! Shiver me timbers, the guy is still afloat has sailed 83,000 miles (the equivalent of circumnavigating the globe three times at the Equator!), got himself a shipmate (a Swedish blonde, no less!), fathered a child and finances his voyages with his YouTube revenues! 

I have some amazing friends who have done marvelous things at sea. I admire you folk and in another life would love to learn the ropes and join you. In the meantime, I hope that all of you enjoy this story of an intrepid couple who didn't let their lack of seacraft stop them from following their dream! Enjoy!


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lk83N2u1ZmY&authuser=0

Marriage by application

FRANCISCUS (Franky) Antao was a civil servant in the British Colonial Civil Service. He was actually one of the hundreds of clerks in the Secretariat. Many, many years ago he had been seconded to the Permanent Secretary for Recruitment, Local and Overseas, Johnson William. Franky was William’s clerk with a key responsibility. JW, as he liked to be called, was a typical British foreign colonial from the old country. Most of all he did not like to spend too much time in the office.

He was skilled enough to gather around him a team of mainly Goans and other Indians who made sure that the department was run as a pretty tight ship. He on the other hand was happiest at the Muthaiga Golf Club, on the course, naturally or lunching in one of the finest dining rooms in the country. The MGC also had a much-loved bar. With that came a reputation that no decent Catholic would have found sinful. However, meeting the sex-hunger needs of the wives of farmers and civil servants who were forced to endure life in the bush meant that the colonial government provided regular short-term local leave which the women loved spending in Nairobi and GMC was a haven for finding willing partners.  These short leave sexual encounters often took a regular turn and again there were regular incidents of angry husbands wanting their pounding flesh.

Nonetheless, the British stiff upper lip ensured that any newspaper-worthy sensational stories were spiked in-house. Thus, the ugly side of the MGC was usually swept aside and dressed by a kind of virtual whitewash.

To this day, the MGC remains the pillar of the upper echelons of society. I don’t think you will find any sexual shenanigans today. The sex-hungry farmer’s wives are now just a memory of the colonial past.

JW had a full complement of civil servants, from undersecretaries down to the humble junior clerk. Our Franky told everyone that he was the official “recruitment clerk” to JW and the department as a whole. He always forgot to mention that his “recruiting duties” were only one of his many chores as a clerk. He also forgot to mention that “recruiting duties” were restricted to sending “recruitment analysis forms” (a job application really) to applicants. Although his task was minuscule in this process, he did take the trouble to find out the mysteries embedded in the form and after a while, he was competent enough to understand who were the likely successful candidate/s for the advertised job. In the senior job section, the approvals team usually reserved the vacancies for English men and women from Briton. The other vacancies were filled by people marked as “others” of any colour except black …. except in the rare extreme.

As a result of his newly gained knowledge as “the” recruitment clerk, he became endeared to many Goans whom he helped with filling in the recruitment form to the best of his newfound knowledge which was eventually successful more often than not. Thus, Franky Antao gained for himself the respect and admiration of the Goan community. In the eyes of the many members of the Nairobi Goan Institute he was known for his astuteness and analytical skills but not for his skills at the card table.

At home too, his doting wife Mariela came to rely on his analytical skills and sought his help in solving many household problems and future plans. Mariela trusted her teacher-husband implicitly and enjoyed that her husband was such a clever chap.

Hence one Saturday night, after the children had gone to bed, she sat knitting while her husband enjoyed a cigarette and a Scotch while reading something of assumed high importance.

“Franky,” she said. “Can we talk, please?”

“Yes, sure. What about?”

“One of these days, Gildo’s parents will come to ask for Juanita’s hand in marriage with their son. How should we go about it? After they ask, we should have them around, dinner and drinks before we sit down to discuss everything,” she said somewhat sheepishly.

“Yes, yes, of course. I have been giving it some thought and I have come up with a plan. When he comes to ask a name a date when his parents could come to our house, I will have a chat with him. I have adapted my work recruitment form for him to fill out. That should give us all the answers we need. For example, we will know if likes and dislikes generally. His earning potential, savings, health, and everything else his potential in-laws would like to know before giving their consent and engaging the parents in setting a date,” he said with triumph.

Mariela’s eye’s lit up too. She knew her Franky would have a simple solution.

All spick and span, just like in the British Civil Service.

Well, the day came when Gildo followed Juanita into the Antao home. Waiting with open arms to greet them were Mariela and Franky (who was wafting a cigarette high above everyone and smiling to high heaven). When all had settled with a drink, Gildo asked the question. You know the one when can his parent come to visit the Antaos about finalising Gildo’s and Juanita’s wedding plans.

Frankie put his arm around Gildo and took him into the kitchen. “Gildo,” he said, “you know I am a bit of analytical nut. I have created a form that I ask you to kindly fill out. The answers you provide will give us a very clear idea about what we do not know about you. It’s nothing too serious, please oblige me.”

As Gildo picked up the form, Franky said: “I hope you will find it useful too.”

Beaming with delight, there were hugs all around before the “good nights”.

A couple of weeks later, Juanita asked her dad to come home early from his daily card table at the GI. “Gildo is coming back with the form you ask him to fill.”

When Gildo did arrive that night, he was fuming like a raging bull.

With tear-filled reddened eyes, he said: “My father told me to tell you that you should have a good idea what to do with your marriage proposal form. He asked me to inform you that no son of his would apply for the job of being married to anyone.” With that, he walked out and slammed the door as he left. That was the last they saw of Gildo. Much unhappiness, tears and sadness followed in the Antao household. Franky was a lesser man; his feathers as an analyst had been well and truly plucked. He never set foot in the GI again. His fall from grace was too much to bear.

You know what they say about little knowledge.

Juanita eventually married, a popular motor mechanic call Manuel. I suspect they lived happily ever after. Frankie kept his distance and relied on Mariela to do the needful. She had his full support.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Sunday, January 23, 2022

Goans: My mother's family - John Nazareth

 Eena Meena Deeka

The story of Mother’s family

 

By John H Nazareth

 

My mother, Anne’s family story is one of music. Grandpa Antonio Matias Gomes had an orchestra and they used to travel around India playing in theatres in the time of the silent movies. At the turn of the 20th century, he got a contract with the British to play in Theatres in Kuala Lumpur, Malaya. He was so enthralled with KL that he settled down there where most of his children were born. He is credited by the national music archives with being the first orchestra to bring Classical Music to Malaysia. Grandpa’s instrument of choice was the violin.

 

Mum’s father was not the only musician in the Gomes clan; at least another brother also had an orchestra and settled in KL. Another of his brothers Manuel Salvador had two sons Johnny and Joe Gomes who were well-known in the music scene in Bombay. They played in bands and composed music for Bollywood movies. This played a part in the stories I am about to tell you.

 

Let’s go back to Uganda in 1962. This was my second year at an African Catholic boarding secondary school - St. Mary’s College Kisubi (SMACK) which was popular with Goans. It was also the year that Uganda got its independence from the UK. To celebrate Independence the school decided to host a Tattoo during which students from each tribe in school were asked to do a cultural dance around a huge campfire on the college sports field. Likewise, the Goan students were asked to put together some cultural dance. Only one problem – we were all young guys and we had no knowledge of any Goan cultural dance. None of us even knew a Konkani song!

 

To the rescue came Tony Rodrigues, who was one of the seniors, then in Form 5. Tony was a musician and was well known for playing the accordion and singing. Tony told us about this new Hindi popular song he had heard – Eena, Meena, Deeka. It was the rage in Bombay as it was the lead song of a Hindi movie of the same name. Tony suggested that he would sing it, the rest of us could sing the chorus (“Rum, pum, po”) and dance the twist. The song even had the Konkani words “Maka, naka” (I don’t want) in it together with “Tanganyika”, which made it seem bona fide. And that is what we did. Phew! We were embarrassed as hell, but it got us through the night. (The following year we actually learned to dance a Mando (Goan traditional dance) for the 1963 Tattoo.)

Fast forward to 2010 – almost 50 years later, location – Mississauga Canada. I had recently come to know my first cousin Manuel Gomes – son of Joe Gomes – and he emailed me an article on the Goan Musicians of Bombay written by Ashwin Panemangalore. I read through it and discovered to my amazement that my Uncle Johnny Gomes was the co-creator of “Eena Meena Deeka”! I immediately emailed Tony who was now a Professor at the University of Nairobi and sent him the article. He replied: “Indeed a small world”.

 

Nora Jones

One day while the family was at my sister Ruth’s place in 2008, I brought up the subject of Nora Jones’ music, which had become very popular in her native US. As we were talking about her, mum asked “Who is Nora Jones?” Trying to capture more than just her music, I said that she was Ravi Shankar’s love child. Mum goes “Ah! Ravi Shankar ……… I met him.” To which I added “Wha-a-a-t? You met Ravi Shankar? When?” She went on to say that she met him at her cousin, Johnny Gomes’ house in Bombay in the 1950s before he became famous. Johnny and Joe (his brother) Gomes were well known in the music scene in Bombay. They were professional musicians. Ravi used to come to Uncle Johnny’s place to jam.

 

The Gomes music story is one that keeps on giving.

 

An Extract from my Memoirs in work.

18 Jan 2022

 

 

Friday, January 21, 2022

My Mother's family - John Nazareth

Eena Meena Deeka

The story of my mother’s family

   My grandfather's orchestra, he is seated in the middle.


My mum and dad in 1958. (My dad’s initials became his name – PCSC. Some people got the gist but didn’t remember exactly and called him RSPCA Nazareth.)


My mother playing the piano when she was in her eighties.




By JOHN NAZARETH

My mother, Anne’s family story is one of music. Grandpa Antonio Matias Gomes had an orchestra and they used to travel around India playing in theatres in the time of the silent movies. At the turn of the 20th Century, he got a contract with the British to play in Theatres in Kuala Lumpur, Malaya. He was so enthralled with KL that he settled down there where most of his children were born. He is credited by the national music archives with being the first orchestra to bring Classical Music to Malaysia. Grandpa’s instrument of choice was the violin.

Mum’s father was not the only musician in the Gomes clan; at least another brother also had an orchestra and settled in KL. Another of his brothers Manuel Salvador had two sons Johnny and Joe Gomes who were well-known in the music scene in Bombay. They played in bands and composed music for Bollywood movies. This played a part in the stories I am about to tell you.

Let us go back to Uganda in 1962. This was my second year at an African Catholic boarding secondary school - St. Mary’s College Kisubi (SMACK) which was popular with Goans. It was also the year that Uganda got its independence from the UK. To celebrate Independence the school decided to host a Tattoo during which students from each tribe in school was asked to do a cultural dance around a huge campfire on the college sports field. Likewise, the Goan students were asked to put together some cultural dance. Only one problem – we were all young guys and we had no knowledge of any Goan cultural dance. None of us even knew a Konkani song!

To rescue came Tony Rodrigues, who was one of the seniors, then in Form 5. Tony was a musician and was well known for playing the accordion and singing. Tony told us about this new Hindi popular song he had heard – Eena, Meena, Deeka. It was the rage in Bombay as it was the lead song of a Hindi movie of the same name. Tony suggested that he would sing it, the rest of us could sing the chorus (“Rum, pum, po”) and dance the twist. The song even had the Konkani words “Maka, naka” in it together with “Tanganyika,” which made it seem bonafide. And that is what we did. Phew! We were embarrassed as hell, but it got us through the night. (The following year we learnt to dance a Mando for the 1963 Tattoo.)

Fast forward to 2010 – almost 50 years later, location – Mississauga Canada. I had recently come to know my first cousin Manuel Gomes – son of Joe Gomes – and he emailed me an article on

the Goan Musicians of Bombay written by Ashwin Panemangalore. I read through it and discovered to my amazement that my Uncle Johnny Gomes was the co-creator of “Eena Meena Deeka”! I immediately emailed Tony who was now a Professor in the University of Nairobi and sent him the article. He replied, “Indeed a small world”.

Nora Jones

One day while the family was at my sister Ruth’s place in 2008, I brought up the subject of Nora Jones’ music, which had become very popular in her native US. As we were talking about her, mum asked “Who is Nora Jones?” Trying to capture more than just her music, I said that she was Ravi Shankar’s love child. Mum goes “Ah! Ravi Shankar ……… I met him.” To which I added “Wha-a-a-t? You met Ravi Shankar? When?” She went on to say that she met him at her cousin, Johnny Gomes’ house in Bombay (Mumbai) in the 1950s before he became famous. Johnny and Joe (his brother) Gomes were well known in the music scene in Bombay. They were professional musicians. Ravi used to come to Uncle Johnny’s place to jam.

The Gomes music story is one that keeps on giving.

An Extract from my Memoirs in work.

18 Jan 2022





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HIGHLIGHT ALL AND CLICK



Marriage by application

  Marriage by application FRANCISCUS (Franky) Antao was a civil servant in the British Colonial Civil Service. He was actually one of the ...